Do You Ever Give Yourself Permission To Do Things Badly?

Manuela Pauer

March 05, 2022

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I recently worked with a very stressed client. We had been exploring different careers and to test the waters, she was going to take some design classes to see if that was a potential direction for her.

But now, everything demanded her attention at the same time. Her full-time work was very busy, she had 2 kids learning remotely, and on top of that, she had 2 projects that were due next week for her design classes.

She came to me and said: "Oh, my goodness, I am so stressed. I am going to have to work on these projects all weekend to get them done."

So I asked her: "What if you gave yourself permission to do very badly on these projects?"

She looked at me incredulously and said: "Very badly???"

And she shared with me that it had never occurred to her to ever do anything very badly. Her parents had always expected her to do well in school and were highly critical if she did not achieve top grades.

She carried these high expectations forward with her as an adult. Now she was very self-disciplined. She strove to do excellent work and hated making mistakes.

Perfectionism Creates Stress

Do you set high expectations for yourself and your work?

Do you have a perfectionist voice that tells you that you cannot make any mistakes?

We think that setting high expectations for ourselves will help us to do things well, but it also creates stress. And we can't truly feel fulfilled in our life if we are driven by anxiety, rather than enjoying the process.

Permitting Ourselves To Do Things Badly Lifts The Pressure

My client agreed that she would take on the challenge of giving herself permission to do these 2 projects badly and focus on enjoying the work instead.

One week later, she came back and was very excited. She said that things turned out so much better than she thought they would.

Rather than working on the projects all weekend, she decided how much time she was going to spend on them beforehand and then stuck to that dedicated time. And instead of fixating on the outcome, she focused on enjoying the creative process.

When she turned in her projects, she was surprised that she received positive feedback. Given that she hadn't spent any time perfecting her work, she thought that she would not receive any compliments, but her professor acknowledged her creative choices.

Closing Thoughts

Life is challenging enough already. Most of us have many demands put on us on a daily basis. We then add to that burden by setting high expectations for ourselves to do things well. No wonder we feel pressured and stressed.

What we often don't realize is that we have the power to create less stress for ourselves and to actually enjoy the process of getting things done by giving ourselves permission to do badly.

As my client discovered with her class projects, just because we permit ourselves to do badly doesn't mean that things will turn out badly. It simply lifts off the pressure that we put on ourselves to do things perfectly and minimizes our stress.

Where in your life can you give yourself permission to do something badly?

Manuela loves helping mid-level professionals create a career and life they love through career exploration and life coaching. You can sign up here for her newsletter with monthly tips and occasional course announcements.



Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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